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VACCINE

Germany suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot concerns

The Germany Health Ministry said on Monday it was suspending use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine based on a recommendation of its vaccine agency.

Germany suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot concerns
Photo: Sebastian Kahnert/DPA

“After new reports of thromboses of the cerebral veins in connection with the vaccination in Germany and Europe, the PEI considers further investigations to be necessary,” said the German health ministry, referring to a recommendation by the country’s vaccine authority, the Paul Ehrlich Institute.

“The European Medicines Agency EMA will decide whether and how the new findings will affect the approval of the vaccine,” it added.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Monday that a causal connection “cannot be completely ruled out.”

Spahn explained that the suspension was a “purely precautionary measure” and added that he expected a decision on the safety of the vaccine to be made by the European Medicines Agency within the next week. 

READ ALSO: Which countries in Europe have suspended AstraZeneca vaccinations?

Seven cases of cerebral vein thrombosis had been reported, Spahn said, and while this is a “very low risk” compared to the 1.6 million jabs already given in the country, it would be above average if confirmed to be linked to the vaccine.

“This was a scientific decision and not a political one. In making it we have followed the advice of the Paul Ehrlich Institute,” Spahn said.

He also confirmed that the suspension affected both first and second doses with the vaccine, adding that second doses could be given after the European Medicine Agency had reviewed the concerns over blood clots.

Several European countries, including Ireland and the Netherlands, have suspended usage of the shots, which were jointly developed with the University of Oxford.

Both the British-Swedish company and Oxford have said there was no link between their vaccine and blood clotting.

The World Health Organization, Europe’s medicines watchdog, governments and experts have stressed that no causal link has been established between the vaccine and blood clotting and insisted that the vaccine is safe.

An AstraZeneca spokesman said it had found no evidence of increased risk of blood clot conditions after analysing reported cases from more than 17 million doses.

“In fact, the reported numbers of these types of events for COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca are lower than the number that would have occurred naturally in the unvaccinated population,” said the spokesman.

Precautionary move

Norwegian health officials reported three more cases of blood clots or brain haemorrhages in younger people who received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 jab, but said they could not yet say they were vaccine-related.

READ MORE: Why have tens of thousands of Germany’s AstraZeneca vaccines not been used?

The Norwegian Medicines Agency said similar incidents had been reported in other European countries. While there was no proof of a link to the vaccine, anyone under 50 who felt unwell and developed large blue patches after vaccination should seek medical attention.

The World Health Organization said no causal link had been established between the vaccine and blood clotting after Denmark, Norway and Iceland on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of the vaccine over concerns about patients developing post-jab blood clots.

A number of other countries have also suspended use of vaccines from one batch.

The manufacturer and Europe’s medicines watchdog have meanwhile insisted that the vaccine is safe.

Denmark was first to announce its suspension, although it stressed that the move was precautionary, and that “it has not been determined, at the time being, that there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots”.

On Saturday, the Norwegian Medicines Agency said it had “received several adverse event reports about younger vaccinated people with bleeding under the skin (tiny dots and /or larger blue patches) after coronavirus vaccination.

“This is serious and can be a sign of reduced blood platelet counts,” it said.

“Today, we received three more reports of severe cases of blood clots or brain haemorrhages in younger people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. These are now receiving hospital treatment,” it added

Geir Bukholm, director of Infection Control and Environmental Health at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said that following the decision to suspend the jab, it was now “the Norwegian Medicines Agency’s role to follow up on these suspected side effects and take the necessary measures”.

READ MORE: EU states seek summit on unfair vaccine handouts as AstraZeneca announce more delays

Member comments

  1. Well, I guess 2021 will be another lockdown year for the EU whereby everyone else will have normal lives again by the summer. I dispair, I honestly do. I want my life back.

    1. I feel you, Ali, I really do. It’s been brutal. Hang in there! We’ll get our lives back. 🙂

  2. Given the odds of getting a blood clot versus the odds of
    a) getting the virus
    b) loosing the will to live (yes, slight hyperbole, but some days not)
    in the context of MILLIONS of people already being safely vaccinated…

    I choose to get the AstraZeneca – here is my arm.

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COVID-19

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”

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